SAN FRANCISCO -- Carlos Beltran was not in the starting lineup Wednesday night as the St. Louis Cardinals opened a two-game series with the Giants.

"I don't like to miss games," said Beltran, who was out of the lineup for a third straight start. "But I want to make sure that when I do come back I'm ready to go."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the slugger could have played but his knee does not respond well in chilly weather. It was 52 degrees with the wind blowing when Matheny addressed the media before Wednesday's game.

"He's being real smart about it," Matheny said. "We're making sure we get a good look at him. We'll see how it goes tomorrow."

Beltran maintained that he prefers playing at peak level.

"There's no doubt I feel a lot better than I did yesterday," he said. "It doesn't bother me when I hit. It's when I play the outfield or run the bases. When I play again, I want to play at a high level. I have to be ready to play defense."

Beltran has not played since being named National League Player of the Week on Monday.

Freese downplays hitting cold spell

SAN FRANCISCO -- Cardinals third baseman David Freese said it's a slump, there's no two ways about it. But he also wants to keep his 0-for-16 streak in perspective.

"If this was going on in August, it wouldn't look as bad," he said. "But it's early in the year and it looks like something big."

The slump may be magnified because he opened the season so well. Freese is still hitting .272 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs entering Wednesday's game, when he'll face Giants starter Madison Bumgarner for the first time.

"Freese is being put through the test of hitting the ball hard and not have anything go good for him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Sometimes you start to press. If he just stays with his same approach, he'll be fine."

Freese didn't seem so concerned. When asked if he had hit the ball hard during the slump, he said, smiling, "occasionally."

Worth noting

• Second baseman Tyler Greene was back in the lineup after going 3-for-3, including a double and triple, in Tuesday's 7-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs. "Our other two options at second base are left-handed and you want to keep something positive going," Matheny said.

• Catcher Yadier Molina got a day off after playing four games over the past five days.

• First baseman Lance Berkman returned to the lineup after skipping Tuesday's game. He came off the disabled list (left calf strain) Sunday.

• The Cardinals are sponsoring "Graduation Day" at Busch Stadium on Sunday, July 1. Graduates of any level are invited to participate in a pregame on-field parade in cap and gown. Tickets are $15 and include Pavilion seating and a voucher for a free hot dog and soda. For more information, visit cardinals.com/graduation.